Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | April 3, 2015

Letters from the ‘Starbird’ #3

29 March, 1815

Dearest, dearest Sophie…

I am writing you tucked away in the corner of a public house, with only the light of a low candle. I must confess how torn I feel. The last week has been full of many accomplishments, which I will proudly share. Yet, even as our sailing time gets closer and closer, and I am so enthusiastic about getting underway, as we languish here in port, I cannot but feel melancholy. There are only men, here, of course, save for the strumpets making coin off the loneliness and baser instincts of the male species. I am having none of that, I assure you! I miss you so much.

But let me tell of the many great things. First, the new recruits and I finished our shore training. Lt. Darland proctored a test on navigation…and I was at the top of the class!! This not only gives me bragging rights–my mates were very congratulatory–but also, according to the articles of the ship, allows me first choice of stations! All of the available positions have not yet been passed down to the bosun, who oversees activities on deck. The Lieutenant, however, seems to think highly enough of me that he let me continue to study the charts while my mates were practicing on the rigging. I am no officer, for sure…
…sorry, I lost control of my pen. A fracas broke out, which is inevitable among inebriated sailors. I could go on about pent up frustration, tainted rum, and crimps, but I’ll leave that for another letter. I’ll simply say that a body suddenly slammed into my table, and the ink well was sent to the wall. Only after an hour and more could I sit in peace again, mostly because the patrons had largely collapsed. I am not one to turn down a tankard… Anyhow…

I will hasten to complete my letter, as the hour is late and tomorrow I will be back on duty. There is so much to tell! While, as I was saying, I think there may be greater responsibilities to aspire to, I am still learning the running of the ship. It has been ever more important for us to shadow the existing crew. I continue to learn from the men I have already mentioned, but there are new personalities I want to describe. One man everyone simply calls “The Jew.” This struck me, but he takes it in course. In confidence, I learned that his real name is Doron. There is Sherman, who is so efficient that I had trouble keeping up with his instruction, and Tamir, an Arab, who they say comes from a rich family in Egypt with thousands of date palms.

As we get closer to the grand voyage, we have been doing exercises in the bay. It is hard for me not to use the terminology of the trade, which I am sure would be completely incomprehensible to you. I will tell you one, and hope you understand it, as I must use it to explain my second accomplishment of the week. Naturally, a ship cannot head directly into the wind. Thus, if the course we require puts us into the wind, we must go back and forth in crooked lines so that our sails can still be filled. The action of moving the ship across the wind is called ‘tacking.’ I hope I have not befuddled or bored you, dear! Tacking must be done very precisely, lest the ship lose speed or even lose its course. We were just headed north up the coast in such a way, and I was on the ropes for the foresail or, as they call it, ‘jib.’ As we tacked, “helm’s alee!” the wheel man’s cry, I managed to handle the jib nearly perfectly. My pride was almost matched by the Lieutenant’s approving smile. “Most handily!” he told me. My heart nearly burst!

I must wrap up. I have been given my hammock. I know that, once we are underway, I will not be answering to Lt. Darland but to Lt. Angus Malcolm, a very experienced seaman with a bit of a reputation as a taskmaster. As such, I have been assigned to the starboard watch: Half of the deckhands are “starboard,” and the other half are “port.” Mr. Holtz, the owner, officially came aboard to give the crew his blessings and encouragement, which is a sure sign that we will not be in port much longer.

And this brings me back to my melancholy. As I sit here, alone and apart at the back of the inn, I know that I will soon be out and gone. The world beckons. Your face and your touch, your heart, call me home. The simple matter is that once I am out amongst the broad waves, I don’t know how often you will be hearing from me. Time is kept very accurately on a ship, so I intend to write you a letter every week, even though it may not make the post for months.

The candle flickers. Duty calls me to sleep. Know, as well as you can, that, while my eyes search the horizon, my hand will always reach back for yours.

Goodnight, my love.

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | March 22, 2015

Letters from the ‘Starbird’ #2

22 March, 1815

My darling Sophie!

I received your letter two days ago, and I cannot stop reading it! I know we have barely been apart, and that I have not even set sail yet, but your affection means the world to me. It will soon be difficult, and ever more difficult, for us to share our words and thoughts. My heart reaches out to you, and it always will, wherever I may roam.

I am proud and pleased to say that I have completed the basic training. We learned of still more ports, from the deep fjords of Scandinavia to the perfumed markets of Morocco. There has been discussion of the Far East, but I have been led to believe that these are not profitable waters for us at this time. Because many of our crew are not from the local isles, I was tasked with introducing them to the landmarks of Ireland and Scotland, which, I think, I did with great aplomb.

Indeed, Lieutenant Darland seems to be impressed with my enthusiasm thus far. As I was just saying, my mates come from many different backgrounds–not just where they were born, but where their experiences have brought them. I have become a bit of a tutor…and, to be honest, a bit of a show off. Yes, dear, I know this comes as a big surprise to you.

There is so much to know. We have been practicing hauling, furling, unfurling…so many tasks. Then there are all the knots and rope work. At the core, there are the rules to remember for the functioning of the ship and for the trade in the ports. But it is becoming increasingly critical to listen to the wisdom of the experienced, able hands. The Lieutenant is more and more having us shadow the existing crew. Some of the ones I have been with… Giancarlo, who served on the vessel before it came into its present ownership. Ryan, who was once in the Navy and maintains, at least for himself, that military level of fastidiousness. Mickey, from County Clare, who has served the longest aboard. Julian, who is very highly regarded by all, but who seems to be harboring some secret. Oh, I should say that I think I have gained a handle on the name of my Korean shipmate, Sokhem Sung.

I hasten to point out how unusual this degree of attention to new recruits is to the merchant marine. This much of the rumors are true: Many trading vessels are unscrupulous, grabbing men drunken from the taverns, dealing with accursed crimps, forcing landsmen to become sailors while already underway. The Starbird has a particular respect among its peers. I should mention that, by chance, I met the ship’s owner, Mr. Holtz, who treated me not as a servant but as a man, very friendly. I keep thanking my luck!

Next week, the new men and I will be given an exam. Our shore school over, we will begin to get our hands dirty, as it were, side by side with the crew. And soon enough, not only will I be assigned to a watch, but also we will set out for our long voyage.

Dear, dear Sophie. You, better than any other, know how deep passion and romance run in my soul. But I must tell you how much my heart leaps towards the horizon. This is the opportunity we have prayed for! Know that I belong to you, not to the sea, even as the world beckons me.

With dedication and affection, always yours…

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | March 15, 2015

Letters from the ‘Starbird’ #1

[By way of introduction… Friends will know that I have just started a brand new job, and it is quite the exciting opportunity. “Pirate Lou” has, at least in way, gotten into the maritime business. It’s really the travel business, but, since the travel is aboard six yachts, three with sail, I’ll call it the maritime business. I am going to keep the actual name of my employer off this blog, as well as any real names, and I will not at an any time either disclose private information or dish dirt. In fact, I am going to couch this creatively as ‘letters’ from a new-to-the-ropes sailor written to his sweetheart back home, as if from a tramp freighter. Letters will be sent when our fictitious sailor lands long enough in a ‘port’ to get a letter in the post. I will call the vessel, riffing off the name of my employer, the “Starbird.” The sweetheart, as a nod to O’Brian’s Captain Aubrey, shall be “Sophie,” and similarly, it will be 1815, not 2015. Got all that? Let the adventure begin…]

14 March, 1815

Dearest Sophie,

I have been with the Starbird for a whole week now. We have yet to leave port, but there is so much to learn and so much to do to be ready to set sail. She is a fine vessel, seasoned but clean, with a friendly, knowledgable crew. In fact, my dear, it might serve best to describe the people with whom I am being trained. Our instructor is Lt. Ephraim Darland, a right affable chap, fond of his ale but not to excess, who is usually only a sentence away from spinning a yarn from his travels. There is an older man, Tiberius, who had owned his own boat for years but has never served on the deep sea. Nolasco comes from Puerto Rico and is excited to see the wildlife we will encounter on our voyages. I have grown fond already of Jack, an intelligent, creative man who has spent time among the Ottomans. “J.P.,” as he prefers to be called, is from distant Hawaii and hopes to touch on his home islands soon. Terence was working on a degree in science before turning to working on the sea. Strahan, who I am just getting to know, reminds my very much of our old friend Allen. Finally, there is a man from Korea in the Far East, whose name I have not yet wrapped my head around.

The Captain, a Mr. Torsten, is a man we only occasionally see but who very much commands the operations. They say he has always been the business, even as a child. As such, he wants his new crew to know as much as possible before we head off into what is for us the unknown. The Captain, truly a prudent and heedful commander, does not want his men in trouble as we tramp to hundreds of ports. And there are so many places we may go! I have heard in detail of the old Spanish Empire in the Caribbean and of baths made of stone on the isle of Virgin Gorda. There are the wonders of Arabia: ancient temples of the Egyptian gods, Bedouin nomads, a fortress carved into rose-red rock cliffs that can only be reached by the narrowest of canyons. I have heard of the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Malta, of the birthplace of the great Archimedes, of art and unbelievable foods, of volcanoes.

I hasten to point out, however, that, while romantic notions may stir the imagination, there is real work to be done. We are servants on a trader. As such, the Lieutenant is making sure we know the ship’s rules and regulations, and that we are prepared for both the trials of the sea and the dangers of foreign lands. I cannot be happier about the care with which,we, naught but plebeians, are being given careful instruction. When I left you, we were scared of all the horrible, brutal rumors of a sea life, but my confidence grows daily. Indeed, I think I have impressed the Lieutenant with my enthusiasm.

My dear Sophie, while it pains me beyond measure to part from you and the land, I would be dishonest were I not to share my feelings of anticipation. Perhaps you should not know, but word came yesterday of a volcano erupting in Puerto Rico, which has set shipping in the area into high alert. But, dearest, can you imagine?

My heart is with you. I hope this letter finds you swiftly and finds you well. We should set sail in another week. I will write as often as I can!

Yours affectionately…

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | September 27, 2014

The Tale of Logan: A Full Sketch (aka The Novel That Must Be Written)

The year is 1715.  Scotland is on the verge of uprising against England after a rough wooing into a supposedly United Kingdom.  In the village of Restalrig, between the capitol of Edinburgh and the key port of Leith, lives Louis Logan, bearing the name of a disgraced family and a fallen clan.  A fisherman by trade–but a smuggler by necessity–Logan lives and works on the waters of the Firth of Forth.  He cares not for kings or politics, but he feels the pains of poverty and English oppression, for himself, and for his neighbors and kin.

He is well known in Leith, and so, at the tavern one night, he hears of a Scottish noblewoman who is coming to drum up support for the Jacobite cause.  He goes to the dinner and the ceilidh, and he is smitten with the smart, strong woman that he meets.  They flirt, driving Logan to obsession, yet she draws him on.

And then the Rising comes to Leith.  As the Pretender’s men and the English square off, and the town becomes a war zone, Logan chooses to fall in with the rebellion, partly for his country and partly to impress the lass he barely knows.  Suddenly he finds himself on the long, difficult, and ultimately doomed Scottish offensive to the south.  Amongst angry Highlanders and conniving and squabbling nobles, Logan wonders what he has done and if indeed there is any meaning to it.  At the same time, he learns the ways of the soldier and the greedy, bloodthirsty way that the warrior takes to survive.  Eventually the Scots reach Preston, and the Scots are besieged by the English.  Logan fights because his spirit insists, even as the Highlanders feud and the nobles eventually betray their own men.  Surrender is inevitable.

Logan is captured and kept with the other rebels in a cold, dismal church, awaiting his imprisonment as a traitor to the Crown.  By total chance he is able to slip out.  In darkness, he makes his way through the marshes, hoping he cannot be tracked.  He goes to the one place he might find escape:  the busy port of Liverpool.  He finds the town squalid, full of crimps and pickpockets, and he is anxious to be rid of the place.  Desperate, he signs aboard a cargo ship bound for America, the Captain a known despot pushing his ship and his crew beyond normal expectations and into the harsh seas of winter.

It is his first experience in the broad blue.  The conditions are horrific, and the crew is worked to the bone, but, with the help of his shipmates, he learns and masters the ways of a tall ship sailor.  Yet, when the work slacks, he is often found at the rail, looking back towards Scotland, thinking of his home and the woman he might have loved.

The crew are pushed to their limits and beyond.  They are on the verge of mutiny when, one fateful day, as they near the New World, they sight a ship under the feared black flag.  The men plot for their freedom, and Logan finds himself their leader.  When the pirates board the ship, they fight with them not against them, turning upon their old oppressor.  The pirate Captain is one Benjamin Hornigold.  He impressed by the fervor of Louis Logan.  Perhaps out of necessity, perhaps out of that ongoing desire for freedom, Logan turns pirate.

Logan feels uplifted.  Though an exile, he is a free man.  He revels in the vastness of the sea.  Hornigold sails into New Providence, where Logan becomes one of the Brethren.  For the next year, Logan lives the pirate life to fullest, helping to take what ships may come, traveling from the American colonies to the woodcutters of Campeche, from Boston to the Virgin Islands.  Prizes are taken.  Rum is drunk, and whores are paid.  It would be grand life, but, as time goes on, Logan again questions the meaning of it all.  He gains a reputation as a fine hand and a capable fighter but also for his melancholy.  And so he gains the monicker of “Blue Lou Logan.”

On a day with a fair wind and a blue sky, Logan and the other pirates encounter a rare Spanish galleon, unescorted and ripe for the taking.   They capture the ship with little difficulty.  It’s not much of a prize, but, hiding below, Logan finds a scared, young girl who has stowed away.  She identifies herself as Consuela, daughter of the Mayor of Cadiz.  Consuela tells Logan that she has run away, unable or unwilling to meet the conditions of the gentry, wishing nothing else but to live by her own rules.  Logan’s heart melts, understanding her motivations and at the same thinking of her as the daughter he never had with the lass he never won, the family that might have been.  Logan takes Consuela under his wing, keeping her close even as he continues on the pirate path.  It is an odd couple, a proud Scot and warrior, and an innocent but feisty Spanish girl of the court.  The other pirates do not understand, but the bond between Logan and Consuela tightens with each day.

Unfortunately, Consuela’s disappearance is not unnoticed.  Word circulates that the Mayor’s daughter is in the company of a notorious rebel and pirate.  Out in the open, a Spanish warship, owned by the Mayor of Cadiz, overtakes the ship Logan and Consuela are on.  The fighting is desperate.  Logan’s only priority is to protect Consuela.  He fights like a savage to protect her as she maneuvers to escape.  But they are overcome.   Consuela is contained.  Logan is in chains.

They are taken to San Juan.  The other pirates are dispatched after the briefest trials and with nary a thought.  But Logan is picked out.  He is paraded slowly to the fortress and the waiting gallows as Consuela is forced to watch.  Logan’s mind is somewhere else entirely.  For the first time since leaving Leith, or perhaps for all time, he understands his place in the world.  As he is led to the noose, he thinks of his home far away.  Amongst the crowd is another escapee of the Rising, and he knows the face of Logan.  Just before the hatch drops, he says, staring intently, “So ends a son of Scotland.”

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | August 30, 2014

The Second Circle of Louness

I am in an interesting place.  Due to circumstances beyond my control, I recently lost my job.  The same thing happened one year ago.  These were jobs only, not careers.  To quote Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly:  “I do the job, then I get paid.”  There was no love of task, no mission…and a whole lot of stress.  I am in a place of rethinking, and a lot of that thinking is going back to old priorities and models.

About nine years ago one of the biggest paradigm shifts in my life occurred.  Within about a month, I finished my PhD exams in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington, went to the UK for the first and thus far only time, divorced (amicably) my wife of thirteen years, moved out on my own, and left the Ivory Tower to enter the “real” workplace.  When I left Ethno, my focus was on globalization and underground dance music, specifically Jungle/Drum’n’Bass.  I did it because I loved the music, and I was part of a young movement in my discipline that declared that your specialization is not determined by theory or academic fashion but by passion.  Trouble was, as time went on and I went further and further from academe, I lost that passion.  On one hand, the drudgery of working life left me spent and mired, finding even the concept of returning to the university hard to contemplate.  On the other hand, I gained a new and much stronger passion:  water, boats, shanties, maritime history, and pirates.  If I was going to get back into Ethno, I would be completely altering course, probably backing up, and that was and is daunting.  Yet my current wife–now of seven years, and supportive in a way my previous wife never was–my family, my friends, and my brain kept nudging me to get back to where I belong:  studying, researching, writing, and teaching.

Then I got kicked out of that work reality…twice.  The cumulative shock had put me in a position where that reality was less attractive than ever and where getting back to academia suddenly seemed worthy and possible.  And then I remembered something.

A whopping sixteen years ago, in one of my ubiquitous self-reflexive moments, I did an exercise.  It started as an inventory of interests that was then boiled and distilled down to a model I called either the “Lou Universe” or the “Circle of Louness.”  The making of this model plays into two character traits of mine.  One is that I love to analyze and theorize, including and especially about myself.  The other is that perhaps my biggest internal dialectic is between eclecticism bordering on “Ooo–shiny!” distraction and a belief in balance drawn spiritually from Native American and Buddhist inspirations.  The Circle of Louness gave me not only a chart of my own priorities but also a potential map to keep them all on even terms.

When the second job loss put me in a contemplative space, I remembered the Circle of Louness and how helpful it had been in various ways at various times.  Trouble was…I couldn’t find it.  The hard copy was somewhere in a heap of boxes in the garage.  There was no graphic file on any hard drive or flash drive.  I dove into the Journals, but the resurrection of the Louness system I remembered from my brief bachelor period didn’t give me the chart itself.  Finally, by simply going backwards, I found the original exercise, November 6, 1998.  But…while the four points of my personal Sacred Hoop were found and still applied to my current existence, the theoretical connections between each point were gone.  I rebuilt it.  So, here in the Round Kingdom, under the influence of rum and ganja, between the late night and the early morn, I present the Second Circle of Louness, newly reimagined…and electronically saved.


The Four Points of Louness are my interests, consolidated into general areas meant to be kept in balance.  Within each Point there are two overlapping concerns, the heart of Ethnomusicology:  words and music.

  • Creative:  The acts of original writing and original music.  In words, this can be anything from story to essay to the daily Journal.  Original music, given my approach to it, can be composition in the traditional sense or mix on audio file or live air.  The word and the music unite in at least two ways.  One is contribution to Ethnomusicological literature.  The other is when poem becomes lyric.  By recollection, this was NOT at the top of the circle before–see the next point–but I have come to realize that the acts of writing and musicking (to use Christopher Small’s term), and writing about musicking, are what I DO.  I should also hasten to point out that I consider teaching to be a creative act, and another way that word and music come together.
  • Academic:  This was the top but is now the bottom or, really, the foundation. Although as an area its definition is rather obvious, its contribution to the Circle comes down to two factors: analysis and theory.  The Creative act is driven by inspiration, by the muse.  The Academic act is driven by considered thought and by precedent.  Analysis and theory in music parlance are well-defined: the use and consideration of the building blocks such as melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.  As a mixologist, I would also add terms such as segue and flow to these building blocks.  Analysis and theory in words are the models I create or draw from to think about the acts and contexts of musicking.  Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Musicology, History, and other disciplines all contribute, via individual scholarship, analytical and theoretical approaches.  These approaches, in words and music, come together to form Ethnomusicology.
  • Real:  On the left of the Circle is the world as I know it.  Existence.  The planet, my friends and family, strangers, the daily routine, relationships, news, clouds, toothpaste, rum, cats, commuting, working, living.  This is the one area perhaps apart from music and words.  I have it as a Point because I have to be grounded, because I cannot always be in the head spaces of the Creative and the Academic.  I am a human on Earth with loved ones.  Yet the Real enriches and is enriched by the music and the word.  For instance, the road needs decent tunes on the radio and may also inspire a good song.  The Real is also not limited to the present.  History and ancestry are the Real before now.
  • Imaginary:  In case you didn’t know, I’m a geek.  I revel in alternative realities and their minutia.  Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Outlander, The Big Lebowski.  The word can be book or screenplay; in other words, reading or watching, or perhaps both, like The Lord of the Rings.  Music, by a bit of a stretch, is the imaginary worlds created by musicians:  Miles Davis, Erik Satie, Flaco Jimenez, Brian Eno, Bob Dylan, Grooverider.  Music and word do come together in the Imaginary and in a way explain the core of my musical tastes.  On one hand, traditional music is driven (at least for me) by balladry, by telling story in song.  On the other hand, soundtracks and scores are quite literally the music of imaginary realms.  The Imaginary, in essence, is the place where I can get lost in the works of great creators.

To define how each of these Points relate to each other, I will yet again go back to the idea of the dialectic.  In extreme brief:  The idea of the dialectic is that binary opposing forces are not static but create an ongoing process that create new things in new ways by their opposition.  Good and evil, for instance, can be viewed as polar opposites but can also be viewed as creating the vast spectrum of belief, ethics, and morality.  In another old moment of contemplation, I created the symbol <-v-> to represent the dialectic by combining “versus” with the logic sign of “if and only if.”  Each Point on the Circle of Louness is connected by a dialectical pair, six in all.  My analytical mind saw that these pairs can be put into two groups:  Feeding and Grounding.  The Feeding pairs are all at the top and all connect to the Creative, ‘feeding’ it.

  • Creative <-v-> Academic:  The central, vertical axis connects my two main activities.  As I already described, the Creative act is one of inspiration, while the Academic act is one of analysis.  What the Academic gives to the Creative is Structure.  Analysis in word makes the original piece make sense, gives it form and organization.  Analysis in music gives the original piece vocabulary and syntax.  At the same time, the Creative feeds back to the Academic new ideas, giving the analysis the spark of originality.
  • Creative <-v-> Real:  The Real is the realm of living, of the senses.  The Real feeds Experience to the Creative.  Creativity comes from the mind, but it has no body without actual events.  It has no characters, no locations, no narrative without Real Experience.  The Creative feeds back a sort of worldview in which the Real is viewed as a source.  I’m the kind of guy that goes nowhere without a notebook, a camera, and possibly an audio recorder.  I am an observer.  In the previous iteration of the Circle, I remember that the relationship between Creative and Real was labeled as Capture, the idea that the Real was like a lode to be mined.  This is true to an extent, but I have come to realize that Capture is too unidirectional.  Experience is both facts and action.  The Real and the Creative truly can’t exist without the other and create, for me, a unified way of being.
  • Creative <-v-> Imaginary:  Inspiration.  Reading, watching movies, and listening to music can very glibly be called consumptive, not creative.  Yet these sources make me the artist that I am.  I would not write the way that I do without the Inspiration of authors such as Ray Bradbury.  I would not, for instance, play 12-string guitar without the Inspiration of Leadbelly, Gordon Lightfoot, Leo Kottke, and Gordon Bok.  The Creative feeds back an appreciation for fellow creators and praises the truly original–Danny Elfman, Gene Roddenberry.

At the bottom of the Circle is the ground to match the air of the creative hemisphere.  These dialectical pairs are, like the Academic at the foundation, more theoretical, yet quite Real in their manifestations.

  • Real <-v-> Imaginary:  Mind.  The equator of the Circle is the brain itself.  The mind tries to keep the Real and the Imaginary at odds, tho’, of course, I view this boundary to be permeable at the least. Like the Inspiration that unites the Imaginary to the Creative, original worlds would not exist without Real sources–no Replicants without robots, no Bond without real spies.  At the same time, my love of the Imaginary gives me, honestly, a certain disparaging attitude towards the Real.  Closing a book or coming out of a movie theater, the crowded daylight is just sort of…disappointing.
  • Real <-v-> Academic:  Space.  This began as a truly a practical division.  When I was a practicing academic, there was real distance between home and campus.  I, of course, wrote at home (or the café, or the pub) and kept my library at home, but family was in the house and scholarly friends and mentors were in the Music Building.  In this New Circle, however, I have made the opposition into a dialectic, and the process is Travel.  Travel makes the thing of distance into the action of movement.  From the Academic side, there are the endless dialogues about what defines “the field.”  From the other side, travel is the ultimate in Experience, the best of the Real and an important priority.
  • Academic <-v-> Imaginary:  Time.  On one level, this is another practical division:  Time spent in the Imaginary is separate from Time spent in the Academic.  On another level, they are united in their activities–Reading the word and Listening to the music.  I can enjoy a good album or a good book, or I can analyze them.  Like the Experience that binds the Real and the Creative, this dialectic creates a certain attitude.  I often find that analytical thinking is hard to keep down.  Analysis is part of the enjoyment.  I think that’s what makes me an academic.

The Circle of Louness is only a model (like Camelot).  To use the model’s own terminology, the Circle is an analytical construct—an Academic exercise—that nevertheless draws from and exalts the originality of the Creative.  The Circle is grounded in the Real world yet acknowledges that reality is fuzzy and that the Real is only tolerable when you can regularly escape into the Imaginary.  But I must also use the old Marxist dialectic:  praxis <-v-> practice.  In other words, the model is only good if it is useful.  The real goal of the Circle is to keep me cognizant of ALL my priorities, to make sure they all receive fairly equal time.  Balance.  For a long time, I used the Circle as a device in the Daily Journal, dividing the events of the day not by chronology but by Point.  This allowed me to check whether all Four Points were getting their share.  I am not going to do that right now, partly because getting the Academic back on my personal map is not yet…Real.  Putting the Circle of Louness back into practice is, at the moment, a sort of goal.

But the Circle is back.  And improved!  There has been far too much of the Real, just enough Imaginary to hold me together, only the occasional Creative moment, and a long, long drought of the Academic.  I have gone back in personal time and pulled the Universe out of the past.  I have redrawn the Circle.  Now:  Let’s get this wheel rolling.

Ah, and I highly recommend you try to do this exercise yourself.

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | May 8, 2014

Opening Duck Dodge 2014: The Calm of the Calm


The water of the lake

It was one of those work days when I just wanted to bang my head on the desk.  Urgent emails.  Interruptions.  No steady work flow and thus what didn’t at least seem like progress.  Everything was all laid out to join Dan on the Mirus
for the first Duck Dodge of the year.  Yet as much as I was looking forward to it I was fearing it, mostly because of the ruptured disc in my back and the inevitable, ongoing leg pain.

Waiting for the start

Waiting for the start

I was ready to get the Hell out at 5:00 sharp.  Zanne and I crossed Lake Washington on 520, unwinding to the music of Captain Tractor, and reached the marina in Fremont in good time.  The Mirus had seen some maintenance in the off months and looked remarkably clean.  Dan was mending the jib.  The last to join was the boat’s other owner, Brian, with whom we chatted about the game café he and his wife had under development in West Seattle.  We hauled ourselves and the case of Newcastle aboard.  As we got underway and raised sail, there were many questions.  What was the course?  Where was the wind?  All the boats milled about the Committee Boat, the Windswept, many donating liquor in official “Appreciation.”  The wind was out of the west…a bit odd.  Tho’ admittedly ‘the gimp,’ I comfortably took up the port jib sheet and cradled the big bottle of Sailor Jerry that seemed to kick everyone else’s ass.



Don't hit the...goslings

Don’t hit the…goslings

In typical Mirus fashion, we had what the Committee boat called “our own own private start,” but at least we weren’t the last in our class to cross the starting line.  The first leg headed north towards Gasworks, which meant we had a steady reach.  Rounding towards the Aurora Bridge, however, meant that we were not only tack on tack but also facing steadily diminishing wind.  We tried to keep the sails as trim as possible, watching the telltales, and trying to read the dead spots on the water.  Zanne took a turn at the tiller.  The lake turned nearly glassy.  Spinnakers flopped into the water.  Then the sun went down, and the wind essentially died.

Nearly sundown

Nearly sundown

Spinnakers in, um, 'light' wind

Spinnakers in, um, ‘light’ wind

Many boats had finished the race and were heading home.  Others, like ourselves, gave up:  only half the course, and certainly not two laps.  We got the outboard running, turned on the running lights, and dropped sail.  It could have been called a failure.  Nevertheless, I had returned to my happy place.  There was calm in the calm.  Sailing always keeps the rest of the world at bay.  Plus, there was a whole summer to come.

And my leg didn’t hurt the whole time.

I'm good.

I’m good.

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | September 30, 2013

The Rose and the Roses

An old postcard of "HMS" Rose in her home state.

An old postcard of “HMS” Rose.

Nancy Charboneau, née Rose, Grandma on my wife’s mom’s line, has been living with us for several months.  Only some of her things have made it here from Houston, but in one box was a binder called “Rose Genealogy:  15 Generations in America, 16__ to 1978,” prepared by a relative, Ruth Torbert.  While the family history is fascinating enough, included amongst the papers was a copy of an article that piqued my nautical interest because it was on “HMS” Rose, the replica British frigate that has gone on to Hollywood fame as the Surprise in Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World among other films.  The one-page article doesn’t mention any family.  Furthermore, there have been, in fact, 21 ships named Rose in the English or British Navy, from a King’s ship in 1222 to a corvette that fought during World War II.  “Rose” was used as the name for so many ships as it is the national flower of England; think War of the Roses or Tudor Rose.  Did Torbert only include this article because of the circumstantially same name?  Or is there, in fact, some connection between the family and the ship?  I have only begun to research this question, and thus far the answer is…inconclusive.

Scene of a slave revolt, in this case as part of the Haitian Revolution of 1815.

Scene of a slave revolt, in this case as part of the Haitian Revolution of 1815.

The Rose family certainly has a salty enough history.  The story begins, according to family tradition (and the genealogical papers), in 1634, when Thomas Rose and his family left London for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Unfortunately, a storm blew the ship off course, and the Roses’ landfall in the New World was on the island of St. Kitts in the British West Indies.  There the Roses settled and farmed.  All was going well until a slave uprising.  No date for the uprising is mentioned in the genealogy, but I found an article online that describes in some detail a quickly suppressed slave revolt in 1639, which would fit the timeline.  All the Roses were killed save the youngest son, another Thomas Rose.  As the slaves were only threatening white males, young Thomas was dressed as a girl and swept off to New Amsterdam (New York) and then to Salem, Massachusetts, where he made a family.  Moving to Connecticut, he established a long line of successful, landowning Roses…many of whom were still named Thomas.  The third Thomas Rose, born about 1653, fought against the Native Americans in King Philip’s War and participated in the massacre of a Narragansett village that came to be known as “The Great Swamp Fight.”  His son, Thomas Rose #4, born about 1681, served in several civil positions, including on the Connecticut General Court.  Among #4’s children was John Rose, born 1709, who created a new stronghold of Roses in Rhode Island, from whom Grandma is descended.  Often called “Judge John,” he held various offices at various times in South Kingstown and Washington County.  He and several of his eight sons also fought in the Revolution as part of the “Kingston Reds,”  the 3rd Kings County Regiment of the Rhode Island Militia.

The Revolution as it occurred in Rhode Island is the connection, however thin, between the Rose family and the original HMS Rose.  But we need to shift a few miles.

Newport Harbor; artist unknown, probably late 19th century

Newport Harbor; artist unknown, probably late 19th century

Only a few miles east of South Kingstown is Newport, which, at the time of Judge John and the Roses, was a busy seaport.  However, Newport being much less in stature than say Boston or New York, the seamen of the town turned “alternatives to conventional exports.”  Newport was, indeed, a haven for smugglers, outright pirates and, eventually, revolutionaries.  According to the unaccredited “HMS Rose” article included in the Rose genealogy, the city was known for “illegally importing cheap molasses from the French West Indies in large quantities, and then making it into rum.  Rum, being virtually the only food preservative available in America, was a very valuable commodity.”  Food preservative?  Well, I suppose that’s one use for rum!  Of the pirates of Newport, the most famous was Thomas Tew, who, although making only two voyages in 1692 and 1694–the second ending with his death in battle–is commonly credited with pioneering the “Pirate Round” from the Northern Atlantic, around the tip of Africa, to Madagascar and the hunting grounds of the Arabian Sea, and home again with holds full of Muslim loot.

"The Burning of the Gaspee," by Charles DeWolf Brownell

“The Burning of the Gaspée,” by Charles DeWolf Brownell

All of this illegal activity did not go unnoticed by the British, but the Rhode Islanders defended their right to free trade to the point of rebellion.  In 1768, the British confiscated the ship Liberty, owned by one John Hancock, for purportedly locking the customs official in the cabin as they unloaded their cargo of Madeira wine.  Refitted as HMS Liberty, the ship patrolled off Rhode Island for customs violators.  Yet, in July 1769, when HMS Liberty seized two ships and brought them into Newport, the Rhode Islanders retaliated by boarding, scuttling, and burning the Liberty; this event is often cited as one of the first acts of open defiance against the Crown.  Three years later, HMS Gaspée sailed into Narragansett Bay to try once again to suppress Rhode Island smugglers.  Pursuing the packet boat Hannah, the Gaspée ran aground, and members of the Sons of Liberty quickly boarded the ship and burned the vessel to the waterline.
"HMS Rose, 1757," by Michael Sutton.

“HMS Rose, 1757,” by Michael Sutton.

Having had enough of the Rhode Island troublemakers, the British needed a more powerful warship.  That ship was the HMS Rose, and her arrival in American colonial waters sparked off a series events that changed Rhode Island and, indeed, United States history.  Built in England in 1757, the Rose, a sixth-rate post ship mounting 20 guns, had served in both the Channel and the Caribbean during the Seven Years’ War.  In 1774, under the command of Captain James Wallace, HMS Rose entered Narragansett Bay.  So successful were Wallace’s efforts at eliminating Rhode Island smuggling that, within eight months, a supposed four fifths of the residents of Newport were ready to leave due to unemployment.  Desperate, Rhode Island merchants petitioned the colonial legislature to create its own navy.  In June 1775, the sloops Katy and Washington were chartered by the Rhode Island General Assembly to defend the colony’s shipping.  Rhode Island’s little navy led directly to the creation of the Continental Navy in October 1775.  Rhode Island, anxious to business on its own terms, declared independence on May 4, 1776, two months before the national Declaration of Independence.  The sloop Katy entered Continental service as USS Providence and was one of the first commands of none other than John Paul Jones.  HMS Rose, meanwhile, played a critical role in the British invasion of New York in July 1776, for which Wallace was knighted.  Throughout the war, Rose patrolled the northeast coast, pressing unfortunate sailors and seeking out provisions for British garrisons.  Finally, in 1779, HMS Rose was intentionally scuttled in the channel leading to British-occupied Savannah, Georgia, to prevent the French fleet from assisting an American assault.  There in the narrows, after the war, the Rose was destroyed.
A contemporary print depicting the Battle of Rhode Island.

A contemporary print depicting the Battle of Rhode Island.

I have found no mention of the Rose family in the above actions, but the Rose family certainly participated in the Revolution, and, more specifically, in Newport’s role in the war.  The Rose genealogical papers have a whole section entitled “Military Roses.”  Judge John and five of his sons are particularly mentioned.  Sadly, two of the sons were taken as prisoners of war; Philip Rose endured the hardships of the notorious prison ship “Old Jersey” in New York Harbor, where he died of starvation.  Judge John and his son John Rose, Junior, are said to have been members of the “Kingston Reds called to Newport” for “the only battle on Rhode Island soil in the Revolution.”  This event is called, among other names, “The Battle of Rhode Island” or “The Siege of Newport.”  The impetus for said battle was the entry of French support of the Revolution in 1778.  Twelve ships of the line under Admiral Comte d’Estaing were supposed to blockade the British fleet in the Delaware River, but, by the time Comte d’Estaing completed a three-month crossing of the Atlantic, not only had the British fleet left the Delaware, but also the French fleet’s next best bet, New York, was deemed to be too daunting to approach.  Newport was chosen as the next destination.  The British had occupied Newport since late 1776, seeing the port as a potential rebel base to attack their stronghold in New York.  The Americans were in a standoff with the British until the French movement gave Newport new strategic importance.  Major General John Sullivan was appointed by Congress to Rhode Island, and he rallied the local militias to his effort–including the Kingston Reds and thus John Rose and his son.  The ensuing battle proved to be a draw.  Although d’Estaing initially held Newport harbor, when the British fleet from New York, under Admiral Lord Richard Howe, arrived, the two naval forces went out to do battle but were scattered by two days of storm.  Lacking French support, Sullivan’s troops were unable to openly attack Newport, and a siege began.  When d’Estaing abandoned Newport, the disheartened militias began to break up.  It was then, as the Americans were withdrawing, that the British chose to attack.  The battle lasted about a day.  In the end, Continental forces fell back, and, although Newport remained in British hands, in 1779 they abandoned Newport to concentrate their forces in New York.

HMS Rose saw no part in this battle.  Even Sir James Wallace was far away, in command of the 50-gun HMS Experiment.  He and his ship were captured by the French off Hilton Head in 1779.  Wallace was released within months.  In 1794, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral and served for a time as governor of Newfoundland.  He retired to England in 1797, became Admiral of the Blue in 1801, and passed away in 1803, about 72 years old.  In sum, the only connection between the Rose and the Roses during the eighteenth century was Rhode Island:  At one point the Rose played a vital role in creating a Revolutionary navy out of Newport, while at a totally different point the Roses participated in an ultimately pointless attempt to take Newport back from the British.

Tall Ship Rose

Tall Ship Rose

So, two hundred years later, we must seek a possible connection between the Rose family and the replica Rose.  Here, again, only geography seems to bind them.  The idea for the new Rose came from John Fitzhugh Millar, a well-published historian from Rhode Island, whose areas of expertise include Revolutionary era ships and architecture; he is now running a bed and breakfast in Williamsburg, Virginia.  In the late 1960s, as the bicentennial of American independence approached, Millar proposed that three vessels of specific importance to Rhode Island be built:  the Rose, the sloop Providence, and the Turtle, the first submersible documented to have been used in war.  Rose, the largest, was the first to be built.  Designs were made by Philip C. Bolger of Gloucester, Massachusetts, credited with at least 668 designs over his long, prolific career.  Rose’s keel was laid in June, 1969, at the Smith and Rhuland shipyard in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada; Rose was the last of nearly 300 vessels built at that yard since 1900, which included the lamented Bounty.  “HMS” Rose–“HMS” is always in quotes as the replica was never an actual commissioned naval vessel–was launched in less than a year.

Like many a modern tall ship, Rose has been through hard times, but luckily she has survived and prospered.  In the 1970s, she could not take United States charters as her hull was foreign-built.  For most of two decades she languished as a dockside attraction in Newport, making just enough money as a museum ship to stay afloat.  Her fate improved in 1988 when she was bought by what would become the non-profit Rose Foundation, operated under the command of professional master sailor Captain Richard Bailey.  Rose was meticulously upgraded until, in 1991, she was certified by the USCG as a sail-training ship.  Hundreds of people learned the ropes aboard her.  Then, in 2001, she was bought by 20th Century Fox.  Still under the guidance of Captain Bailey, the Rose was carefully changed into the Surprise and a detailed and accurate replica of her namesake.  Thirteen ships of the British Royal Navy bore the name.  The direct inspiration for Lucky Jack’s favorite ship, as critical a character to O’Brian’s series as Captain Aubrey and Doctor Maturin, was built in 1794 by the French as the corvette L’Unité and captured by the British in 1796, renamed, and classed as a frigate.  The conversion of Rose into Surprise was permanent and to full sailing standards.  After filming, Surprise was purchased by the Maritime Museum of San Diego in 2005.  The Coast Guard determined she needed certification before resuming sail operations, so in 2007 she was drydocked in Chula Vista, California, and thoroughly refitted.  Surprise is now one of the prizes of the museum.  Surprise and the replica Providence, not to mention Lady Washington and Bounty, have all appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Surprise at home at the Maritime Museum of San Diego

Surprise at home at the Maritime Museum of San Diego

There are still no Roses.  There are some good tales for both the ships and the family, but they pass close to each other without ever quite intersecting.  There are possible bridges that I simply have not yet had the documents or the connections to investigate.  One is the broader regional importance of the Roses prior to and during the Revolution.  If the Roses were a powerful family, regardless of direct lineage to my immediate kin, then there may have been some Rose who had a role in the events that led to or followed the arrival of HMS Rose.  A second possibility is a Rose participating in the revival of the Rose.  I have too little information on the historian Millar and what his connections are in Rhode Island.  I also have too little on the rebirth of the Rose:  The Rose Foundation and its supporters.  The history of Rhode Island–centuries of it–is the only broad concern connecting these stories.  Rather than see the Rose and the Roses as circumstantially connected by place, one could see the complexity of that historical geography as a deep site to excavate.  Like any good detective, I’ll take any leads my fair readers may supply, and I accept the maxim that there is no such thing in a mystery as a coincidence…

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | July 11, 2013

Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival 2013

Life is good.

Life is good.

Day One, Thursday, July 4:  Fantasy Me.  Although the perpetual Mercer Mess makes getting to the CWB–and parking–interesting in new ways, “Pirate Lou” once again comes back to old boats and old friends.  The only big ship so far is the Zodiac, where a kitty is either tying knots or eating them on deck.  A MOST welcome change is that the beer garden is now on flat pavement between the Museum of History and Industry and the music stage–at last a proper set up, AND they open at 10:30 with me still maintaining my rep as first patron.  I listen to and later make friends with local band Piper Stock Hill, representing for Newfoundland.

Flags over the Zodiac

Flags over the Zodiac

Zodiac kitty

Zodiac kitty

At a little before 1:00, it’s storm and go, with a good crew in tow.  I whizz through Blackbeard, Bonny/Read, and John Paul Jones, wondering if I’m going too fast.  But, afterwards, back at the beer garden, the crew of the Arthur Foss assure me, “Don’t change a thing.”  Meanwhile, I catch up with Gomez and hand out a number of Logan business cards–perhaps a gig at Foss Waterway Seaport?  Knowing I have to be a workin’ man the next day, I keep my time relatively short, but not without this memorable exchange, another example of the joyful surprise of a child’s mind…  Me: “Does anyone have any questions about pirates?”  Kid:  “Are you a real pirate?”  Me:  “Well, hmm, let’s see.  I know how to sail.  I know how to use weapons.  I could be a real pirate.”  Kid:  “But…do you like rum?”

Adventuess' stern

Adventuress’ stern

Day Two, Saturday, July 6:  Hot Festival…which is really the third day, but as a wage earner I had to slave the Friday between holiday and weekend.  The Adventuress is now on the scene, having delivered the previous day 23 Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and Sea Scouts with lots of pomp.  The pub opening has been pushed back to noon, and it’s HOT, or at least it is for a swag-bellied pirate carrying three flintlock pistols, a cutlass, and a dagger.  I make my rounds but take breaks at HQ in the boat house.  At the info tent I meet the new volunteer coordinator, Lara Schmidt, a fellow anthropologist who got two simultaneous Masters degrees.  Finally, it’s ale time.

Virginia V and the MOHAI's clock

Virginia V and the MOHAI’s clock

I’m prepared to shake things up with some Grace O’Malley, but the characters remain the same.  Best moment…  Me:  “Who can tell me what a pirate is?”  Kid:  “Pirates live in caves and hide things in caves and sometimes find things in caves.”  So, somewhere, are there pirates fighting for territory with the sasquatch community?

M/V Lotus

M/V Lotus

Day Three, Sunday, July 7:  Friends and Crew.  Zanne joins me and meets friends and acquaintances.  Better still, as the beer garden opens we are joined by fellow pirates Brad and Christine Carlsen, decked out and armed, and their dog Scallywag.  Now it’s a whole crew against the model boat tent.  Aboard the Foss, Brad and Scallywag block the starboard side and Christine is on the port side once all the audience is aboard, while Zanne takes pictures.  Third day always means I can just roll.  Best kid I label ‘the girl of the enthusiastic nature,’ who is seriously itchin’ for me to get to Blackbeard’s chopped off head.  My Festival time already ending well, it gets better as our merry band adjourns first to the beer garden and then down to the Dog & Pony Alehouse.  Anther gig?:  Enumclaw Highland Games, with Northwest Mercenaries!

Pirate tales under a blue sky.  Photo by Zanne.

Pirate tales under a blue sky. Photo by Zanne.

Brad Carlsen.  Photo by Zanne.

Brad Carlsen. Photo by Zanne.

Christine Carlsen.  Photo by Zanne.

Christine Carlsen. Photo by Zanne.

Thanks to my wife, my crew, all the fabulous people at the CWB, especially Aislynn and Dan, and ever and always my audience.  Pirate Story Time just keeps getting better, and, well, the CWB just keeps feeling more like home…

Courtesy of Northwest Seaport

Courtesy of Northwest Seaport

Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | June 18, 2013

Train Philosophy: A 25th Anniversary

Almost precisely twenty-five years ago, I graduated from Grossmont High School, La Mesa, California.  Long, long before I was Logan, spinning nautical metaphors, I was a skinny teen, just shy of eighteen, with a mind full of Ray Bradbury, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Jack Kerouac.  I styled myself a writer, and somebody must have bought it:  I was Salutatorian of my class (0.1 GPA short of Valedictorian…cuz I was robbed), and I had been admitted to Cal Berkeley, which was kinda inevitable.  Then somebody turned me loose–me, the misfit in a  denim jacket and biker boots with a shelf full of Speech and Debate trophies–to write something for the graduation ceremony.

Ida, one of my misfit band at Grossmont, with whom I have recently reconnected on Facebook, pointed out the anniversary of the occasion.  My mom, who is also my archivist and #1 fan, was able to fax me the ancient text within an hour of asking.  Inevitably, it’s weird to look back, but a few things are especially striking reading my own address half a lifetime later.  On one hand, it is remarkably dark, like some Rod Serling intro to a Twilight Zone episode–the train hurtling into the metaphysical future.  On the other hand, my speech can be read as Buddhist philosophy:  Neither the past nor the future are within your control, focus instead on the Now.  Finally, and on this I have reflected before, my language may have shifted from trains to ships, but ultimately and inescapably I will always think and speak in metaphors of travel.
None of this was conscious thinking at the time, whatever my poetic delusions.  Yet there is a circular truth:  When I look back at the journey, I always, and still, want nothing more than to be on the journey.  So…close your eyes.  Imagine a high school football field, folding chairs on the turf, parents snapping pictures, teenagers perhaps excited for the future or just the party later…or bored to sleep.  Proudly but uncomfortably wearing my dark blue polyester cap and gown, I step to the podium…
No Destination, No Return
I’d like all of you to join me in a moment of imagination.  Close your eyes if you’d like.  Picture yourself on a passenger train.  Imagine that you’re in the dome of an observation car speeding across the desert.  Look back beyond the end of the train.  You see the broad expanses, the tall cactus, the wide open sky.  You see the steel rails disappear into the hazy horizon.
You know what’s back there?  That’s the past.
And what all is the past?  Think back.  There’s four long, hard years of high school.  There’s tests and troubles, normal days and disasters.  There’s some good times, too.  Ah, the good times.
The train speeds on.  The miles increase until you can barely see the faint memories.  Grade crossings pass and disappear, telephone poles whizz by.  This train only goes one way, you know.  This train’s bound for the future, and the engineer will never stop and turn back.  The future is inevitable, and you can’t clutch to what will only get further and further away.
Now look off ahead, past the locomotive.  The tracks are starting to curve behind a hill.
What could possibly be up there?  Perhaps you know, or perhaps you think you know.  College, maybe?  A job?  Marriage?  Death?  You can’t know for sure.  There could be another train coming straight at you; there could be a derailment.
Sounds pretty dangerous, doesn’t it?  True, true, but you’ve stayed on track this long.  You can’t forget the past miles, either.  They’re a part of you, good and bad.  Don’t forget where you’ve been; for every new town, there’s another one somewhere back down the line.
Look out the window again, but this time don’t look forwards or backwards.  Look sideways.  Look at the chocolate brown mountains in the distance.  Look at the sand and the gravel right next to the train.  Trouble comes from too much predicting and too much remembering.  You don’t control the perpetual railroad of time, so you’re not responsible for the unforeseeable.  Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Does that sound like you’re helpless?  You’re not that–not even close.  If things go wrong on the train, don’t just sit there.  You must work if there are problems; complacency itself can cause a crash.  It can even kill other innocent people.  Fight if there’s a need, but remember you can’t touch the solid scenery outside your window.
Now open your eyes.  Here we are again:  Grossmont High School, June, 1988.
Or is it?  You’re still on that train of fate.  And as you leave here today, don’t think too much about the past or the future.  Just think about today.
And ride the train.
Posted by: Blue Lou Logan | May 10, 2013


With credit to Kevin Stephenson

With credit to Kevin Stephenson

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